News Corp.’s Fox network has lost almost 17 percent of its young-adult viewers five weeks into the television season, a drop that threatens to dethrone the ratings leader after six years.

The decline has hit some of Fox’s top shows --“House” is off 34 percent and “The Simpsons” 12 percent -- leaving Fox in third place in the 18-to-49-year-old audience that advertisers target, according to Nielsen Co. data supplied by the network.

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